TV debate criteria condemned
09 September 2020
by Chris Leitch, Leader
The just announced TVNZ change to the criteria for its election debates is unjust, unfair, and an affront to voters.
To serve real democracy, it should be giving all serious political parties the opportunity to put their views in front of voters.
At the launch of her book "Promises Promises - 80 years of wooing New Zealand voters" last year, Massey University professor of communication design Claire Robinson pointed out that "New ideas don't come from the centre where National and Labour reside but from the margins which are the home of the smaller parties."
Those new ideas are what large numbers of voters are searching for and the state broadcaster has a responsibility to air those.
Voters already know what they will get from National and Labour – because of the daily coverage they get on radio and television news broadcasts and current affairs programmes. They’re reported on daily in newspapers and magazines and online internet sites.
In addition the committee of parliament that allocates public money to parties for election broadcasting is dominated by National and Labour and they allocate themselves the vast majority of the money.
They’ve given themselves $2.5 million between them (even more than last election) in public money for election advertising on television, radio, and social media, with the remaining $1.65 million spread over 17 other parties.
Even the Labour party agree that it is unfair, complaining that is has been short changed by $82,915 – vastly more than most of the parties outside parliament have even been allocated.
As well as the taxpayer money for broadcasting, the parties in parliament already use about $50 million each year of taxpayer funds for research and media staff, newsletters, focus groups, surveys, MPs and staff travel and accommodation and a plethora of other services – many of which are used by them to build their public profile.
Professor Robinson said "Not only do National and Labour gift themselves a war chest from public funds but they also have substantial sums donated by big business and wealthy individuals."
"This confers on them a massive advantage to be able to retain the dominant position they already have in New Zealand's political landscape."
Elections should be about providing information so that voters can, in their view, make the best choice for them. To do that they need to know what is being offered.
The criteria should include a representative from any registered political party that has stood candidates and a party list in either of the last two general elections.
Over 6,500 Kiwis have signed a petition calling on New Zealand media organisations to host minor party leaders’ debates in the run up to the election.